HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — A weekend of juvenile mayhem has renewed efforts to focus on juvenile justice reform in Connecticut.
Hartford Police made an arrest in a case that stems from shots being fired at a Glastonbury mother last week. She was trying to get a group of teens off her property when she saw them trying to steal the family car in the middle of the night.
Hartford Police Department’s Auto Theft Unit, Violent Crimes Unit, and Fugitive Task Force made a major arrest on July 4. Lt. Aaron Boisvert says a 17-year-old was spotted driving a stolen car on May Street.
Detectives say the car was connected to the recent shooting incident in Glastonbury.
Lt. Aaron Boisvert explained, “They [detectives] were able to clandestinely follow that vehicle and ultimately stop it. The occupant did a bail and there was a short foot pursuit. The operator was taken into custody; he was a 17-year-old juvenile. And a firearm was recovered.”
The night before, Enfield officers captured a chaotic scene on their body cameras of a similar incident. News 8 obtained the video. It shows blue headlights coming toward police who deploy stop sticks on I-91. Authorities were tracking the stolen vehicle – three teens were inside.
Chief Alaric Fox from the Enfield Police Department tells News 8, “At about 2:35 in the morning we were notified by residents in the area that there were individuals that appeared to be breaking into and attempting to break into cars.”
The stolen car from Southbury eventually rolled to a stop with flat tires off Exit 45. After a foot chase to a nearby hotel in East Windsor, police arrested the teen driver for burglary and larceny.
But more was in the stolen car. News 8 Chief Political Correspondent Jodi Latina asked, “Do I understand they were shell casings found in the car?” Chief Fox answered, “There was one empty shell casing found in the vehicle and that was seized.”
In the Enfield case, the arrested New Haven teen was handed over to his parents. In the Hartford case, the teen was sent to a detention center in the capital city. Police charged him with carrying a pistol with no permit and possession of a large-capacity magazine.
A recent report by the judicial branch shows vehicle theft by teens was up from 2019 to 2020. In 2019, 738 stolen car arrests involving minors were logged. A year later that number increased to 910. Nearly half of the teens had never stolen a car before.
Ken Barone from the CCSU Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy says the pandemic caused a major change in behavior. “It’s a crime of opportunity; the opportunity has largely increased.”
Barone also says there’s more to the data. Cars are manufactured with key fabs, not actual keys. The technology makes it easier for would-be thieves.
He says there’s no correlation between raising the age laws in Connecticut to count 18-year-olds as juveniles and increases in car theft.
Adding, his data shows brain development and reasoning of men 25-years-old and younger requires a different approach if policymakers are trying to deter bad behavior.
“I’m not convinced a “tough on crime”/”lock them up” approach is going to be effective because all the data tells us that it will likely not be an ineffective policy change,” said Barone.
House leaders are set to meet about juvenile justice reform this Wednesday at the State Capitol.